The Ghost of Christmas Present is the second of the three spirits that visit Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Unlike the first spirit, a childlike figure without gender, that shows Scrooge his past, the Ghost of Christmas Present is a huge, earthy figure, evocative of Father Christmas. As first described, his presence fills Scrooge’s little room, as if to show the immensity in importance of each celebration of Christmas.
Scholars have long evaluated the description of the Ghost of Christmas Present. In addition to referencing the English figure of Father Christmas, he is similar to several Greek and Roman Gods. In particular, Father Christmas is derived from stories of Saturn, but there is also some allusion to the Greek Gods Bacchus and Dionysus, who symbolize rebirth in certain interpretations. In Dickens, however, any reference to pagan gods is made over with reference to Christianity. For instance, the Spirit wears a scabbard but does not carry a sword, suggesting victory of peace over warfare.
Scrooge’s visit with the Ghost of Christmas Past has well prepared him for the night’s adventure. With this second spirit, he visits numerous homes and scenes, and two of these visits are tremendously important. The first is to the home of his clerk, Bob Cratchitt. Here, Scrooge learns of the immense poverty in which his clerk and family live, and especially of the illness of Cratchitt’s son, Tiny Tim. Through the Ghost, he learns that Tim’s plight is desperate, and that, without intervention, he will die before the next Christmas.
The other visit that Scrooge makes is to his nephew’s home, where his views of hating Christmas become a source of great merriment. This interlude demonstrates how far Scrooge has already progressed in reclaiming his soul. Instead of being frustrated and annoyed with the jokes made at his expense, he appears to enjoy them, and is animated and excited throughout the party at his nephew’s house.
A vital exchange occurs between Scrooge and the Ghost at the end of the chapter. The spirit reveals that he is concealing two demon children in his robes, which he calls Ignorance and Want. These symbols are one reason that Dickens wrote his story, and subsequent other stories that deal with injustices to the poor. Ignoring ignorance and want dims the spirit of Christianity and the future of humankind, and perhaps Dickens seeks not only the salvation of Scrooge, but also the salvation of his readers with this passage.
The brightness of Scrooge’s visit with the Ghost of Christmas Present is a necessary interlude before the appearance of the final spirit, which shows Scrooge the loss of Tiny Tim and his own death. The bleakness of his visit with the last ghost, and of the chapter in general, is a good contrast when compared with the joy encountered in the present. With these last two spirits, Scrooge is given a clear choice: to keep Christmas in his heart year round, or to die unloved and unwept.